SDLP vow to give all newborns £500 in its bid to tackle poverty
The SDLP has pledged to give every child born in Northern Ireland at least £500 towards long-term savings.
The money would be paid in two £250 tranches, the first when the baby was born and then when he or she reached 10. A third top-up at 16 would be discussed with other parties, leader Colum Eastwood said.
More than half of children live in homes with no savings and the nationalist party vowed to tackle the "frightening" increase in child poverty.
Providing up to 30 hours of free pre-school child care per week for working or studying parents was among other promises contained in the party's manifesto for next month's Stormont Assembly election.
Mr Eastwood said: "The SDLP will give every child born here the chance to build for their financial future.
"It is unacceptable in an economy as wealthy as ours that children live in homes with no savings or assets. That ends now."
The SDLP is one of the five main parties and a number of smaller groupings and independents competing in the May 5 poll for 108 Stormont seats.
Although the Executive is run through a mandatory power-sharing coalition, there are plans to create an official Opposition during the next five-year term at Stormont.
Mr Eastwood said his Assembly Members would only enter a government after May 5 that meets the needs of people across the North.
"We will only enter into an Executive if we can fully sign up to a credible and progressive Programme for Government," he vowed. Other key commitments outlined during the launch in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, included:
- The establishment of Northern Ireland's first digital technology and coding academy.
- Providing greater investment in regional infrastructure projects like roads and railways.
- Promoting integrated education.
- Renewing efforts to tackle hospital waiting lists.
- Building around 3,000 new social homes every year for those most in need.
- Supporting the creation of nearly 40,000 jobs and reversing the cut in student places.
Mr Eastwood said he was guaranteeing voters fairness and claimed the DUP had outflanked Sinn Fein in government.
He said: "Stormont's current leaders are selling an illusion of progress.
"More and more, though, it is an illusion that only they see and they believe."